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Afghani Girls’ Orchestra Goes on Tour, Despite Threats

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Islamists such as the Taliban in Afghanistan object to music and equality for women – especially when the two are combined. Now, as Reuters reports, a 35-strong orchestra of Afghani teenaged girls is about to take to the stage on an international tour, despite the danger posed by the Taliban and their own families.

The young musicians all live in a home in Kabul – some are orphans while others were sent there by their families.

Negin Khpalwak from Kunar in eastern Afghanistan told Reuters it’s not just the Taliban that objects to her playing.

“Apart from my father, everybody in the family is against me playing music. They say 'how can a Pashtun girl play music?' especially in our tribe where even a man doesn't have the right to play music."

Established in 2010, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music  “is committed to providing a dynamic, challenging, and safe learning environment for all students regardless of gender, ethnicity, or social circumstances. We have a special focus on supporting the most disadvantaged members of Afghan society- orphans and street vendors- to help them attain a vocation that will allow them to reach their full potential, while contributing to their emotional healing.”

However, that mission is not easy when Khpalwak’s family threatened to beat her for appearing on television.

It’s not just in Afghanistan where music is shunned. Earlier this year a teenager was reportedly beheaded by ISIS for listening to Western music. The Islamic State destroyed “non-Islamic” instruments in Libya.

On the other hand there are Muslims who use music to reach out beyond religious divides to try to create better understanding, as Clarion Project’s Elliot Friedland recently discovered.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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